Working remotely has become a real option for a large portion of the workforce in recent years, and with the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become a necessity for many Pennsylvania accountants and employees who are used to working in an office setting. While there can be challenges to making the shift to remote employees, it can work very well, if you provide the structure and support your employees need.
- Develop and Communicate a Clear Strategy
Define clear policies and procedures for the various aspects of remote work. Clearly define your work expectations, volume, and availability. Set deadlines and the procedures to follow in the event of a delay.
Develop a clear plan of communication between you and employees, separately and as a group. Consider a brief daily personal phone call, at the same time each day, and a weekly video conference with the team. Video conferencing allows team members to see each other’s faces and feel more connected.
Set communication guidelines between employees. If your team depends on each other for the sharing of information, it is critical to develop a plan that will prevent delays in receiving information while respecting each other’s time. Define which communication tool should be used under different circumstances. A shared company dashboard, direct emails, phone calls, and finally instant messages or texts could all be used under different circumstances with different expectations of turn-around time clearly defined.
- Provide Technology and Training
Make sure your employees have all the technology they need to work remotely as well as access to any shared company files or tools. This may include downloading programs onto the personal computers that they will use from home.
Train your team members in the use of any equipment or tools and how to remotely access key data or programs they will need in order to work efficiently and effectively at home. Also, train them in the communication guidelines so there is no confusion.
Remote work can increase security concerns. Upgrade your firewalls and security systems, if necessary, and fully train your employees on security protocols.
- Keep It Human
While some people actually prefer working from home, others will feel very isolated. Most people benefit from the human interaction that can come from working in an office setting and getting regular feedback from their supervisors.
When you check in with your team members, be sure to ask, “How is this going for you?” and then listen. You may get some very helpful feedback on adjustments that can be made to improve employee morale and efficiency. This may include suggestions on how to deal with distractions at home or difficulties in “unplugging” at the end of the day.
Allow time at the beginning of your regular group video calls for people to have some small talk and the opportunity to catch up. Have them brainstorm some team building or morale-building ideas they would enjoy doing remotely. If possible, have team members meet in person on a regular basis. If it’s for a meeting, do plan some social time as well.
Trust but verify. Treat your employees as responsible, trusted adults, and most will reciprocate by doing their best work. However, regularly evaluate the work that is coming in for accuracy and timeliness and adjust as needed.
These three key strategies will help you manage your remote employees, whether temporarily due to the pandemic or on a more permanent basis. Adapt as needed to your unique situation. Frequently review and adjust your plans if needed.